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Transmission
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Music Business Wed Jan 29 2014

MAEK: The World's First Free Music Record Label

MAEK Records logoWhile many record label companies struggle to fight against their listeners who try to get music for free, a new Chicago-based company has decided to stop fighting against the current. Maek is the world's first free music record label, and there's no catch.

"We believe there's a bridge between music being available and free for fans but musicians still making a living, actually making more money, off of their art than they would just trying to title it to fans," said Jason Sizer, president of the company. Sizer originally studied to work as an architect, but decided to tailor his background in graphics and art development to music.

Sizer spoke with a mentor about his idea for a free music record label back in 2011 when the company was first founded, and people thought he was crazy. The company continued making progress and was officially established in September 2013.

"There's an archaic business model that exists in music, and this can be a barrier for musicians to really expand their fan-base and explore other avenues or revenues," said Sizer. "We changed our idea on how to structure the revenue, and our sales have shown that there are other ways for musicians to make money off of their craft."

With a staff of 15, the company proudly makes its claim to its simple business model that is commonplace in other web-based industry, just not yet in the music industry.

"Music for us is kind of like what Gmail is for Google," Sizer said.

Here's a simple analogy to the Google business model that Sizer mirrored: if Google charged for the emailing services, they could make millions a year solely on the service they provide. Instead, Google gives email away for free and makes most of its revenue from advertisements.

"For Maek music, we make our money from advertisements, product placement, tours, and merchandise. Instead of this money going directly to the hands of the record label, the money is distributed to the artists," explained Sizer.

Maek Free the Music Campaign

The idea of a free music label doesn't seem as crazy after hearing Tiffany Lee, vice president of Maek, speak of all the projects the company has mapped out for this year. The company is taking on a focus of performances this year, which means their projects range from a film project to an EDM music festival.

"We really have a full year locked and loaded," said Lee. "We've even cut back on some projects just to make sure that we are able to execute the ones that are really important for the year." The label currently has four artists on their roster, with four EPs to be released on March 2. A grant partnership has also been established with a new streaming company called Arena.

One of Maek's artists is Jason Sizer himself, who makes music under the name of his alter ego, Jason Maek. Check out his debut single "God Made All Of Us," a powerful human rights anthem that endured resistance from many hate groups but has still been downloaded more than 10,000 times.

One of Maek's largest projects is their grassroots campaign called the Free the Music Campaign. The photographic silent protest embodies the vision of the entire label, promoting music independence and protesting corporate companies that control music.

"We really think that the music industry can be done differently," said Sizer. "We think this allows for a lot of creative freedom. A lot of people are trying to be different and our model really allows for people to be different."

Matt Plantenga / January 30, 2014 3:11 AM

What a fantastic article. Well written! Music and freedom going hand in hand (hand and hand?)

Ghazwan / January 30, 2014 6:03 AM

Good read.

Lee Stephens / January 30, 2014 12:13 PM

Interesting read. I would like to see this kind of thing work in the long term. It's a really cool idea, and I'd love for it to work out, but it seems like the big guys at the major labels would never go for it, and many artists need the exposure those major labels can get them. Neat story though, I learned something new today.

Zero Cool / January 31, 2014 10:42 AM

you do realize that this is a tried and true business model already right... not only are you NOT the first "free" music label but none of your ideas for monetizing your art with out selling it are novel at all... they are all currently commonplace in both the indie and big label scenes.

also that song... is like a wanna be Macklemore one love track...

you might wanna tell your 15 person staff to try something original and stop trolling the internet for good ideas and activating them as your own.

ugh / February 1, 2014 10:35 AM

this isn't "the world's first free music record label." these have existed for years now, and i've seen plenty that are far more deserving of an article than this one. do a bit more research before you post these.

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Classical Tue Apr 01 2014

Pulling Strings: For Classical Music in Chicago, You Got a Guy - April 2014

By Elliot Mandel

Love fugues? Dig counterpoint? Get your fix this month as the music of J.S. Bach fills the city. Plus, don't miss a Chicago debut and all five Beethoven cello sonatas.

Read this feature »

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Wed Apr 23 2014
The Knife @ Aragon

Thu Apr 24 2014
LP Marketplace Record Swap Party

Fri Apr 25 2014
Biggest Mouth Contest @ Metro

Mon Apr 28 2014
Peter Wolf @ Space

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